Baptists and the American Civil War: September 18, 1864

Jefferson DavisHas a veil of delusion descended upon Confederate elites?

Richmond is effectively besieged from Petersburg, Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley increasingly controlled by Union forces, Georgia subdued by the Federals, Florida currently under invasion, and the entirety of the Confederate coast blockaded by the Union Navy.

Nonetheless, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, echoing the confidence of many religious and political elites (many large-scale slaveowners, others dependent upon slaves for their wealth), seems little concerned that his nation is on the cusp of falling.

Today Davis pens a letter to Herschel V. Johnson, Confederate States senator from Georgia. Dismissing the advances of Sherman and Grant as no more significant that Confederate General Jubal Early’s brief and unsuccessful raid into Pennsylvania and Washington, Davis expresses confidence that “Sherman’s army can be driven out of Georgia, perhaps be utterly destroyed” if Georgia will only allow the drafting into the army of able-bodied white men yet to serve in uniform.

That mainly geezers and young boys are the only remaining males thus far exempted from transcription does not seem to deter Davis’ confidence.

Meanwhile, Thomas C. Cheney, soldier in the First New Hampshire Voluntary Light Battery and a member of the First Free Baptist Church Manchester, New Hampshire, remains confident in a Union victory and looks forward to returning home when the war is over.

Today Cheney writes a letter to his sister Melissa, speaking of personal matters and the war.

Camp 1st NH Battery Near
Petersburg Va. Sept. 18th 1864
Dear Sister

Your kind letter of the 11th I rec. with Rachels the 15th and was happy to rec. a few lines from you. I am happy to hear that Charlie is geting along so well. if we are discharged in the Field I shall try and stop in Philadelphia one day and see him and visit the Gov. Machine Shops. I hope he will be transfered to Manchester soon and think he will. I am afraid that you women are Spoiling my Babey. (Clinton) I guess you will be the cause of my having my hands full. I shall commence by whiping you women  first, then whip the Boy. I suppose you all laugh at him if he hapnes to get off any thing cunning, even if it is a little Saucey. You must not do that. I guess he is not smarter than other Children of his age, but however I will attend to his case when I get home, and “have” a “frolick” with him well in one week or so I Shall have the blessed privelage of seeing you all if the Lord will. That seemes a Short time dont it to what 1, 2, or 3 Years does. I have rec. no news for a long time that has given me more pleasure than the news of the Committee of the 2d Meeting haveing acknowledged their error in suspending our Church from the 2d M. and voteing to have us rec. in again. our Church (or Christ) will now be able to exercise double the influance they could before. Thank God for this much. Yes!! I shall miss Joseph Walker very much when I get home, and I guess the Church will also. he was a hard worker, and has done much good in the Church, but God will raise up others to fill his place. Joseph can also do much good in the field fighting for his Country, he is needed here very much and a great many others of our able bodyed young Men. The war Prospects look very encourageing now and I hope the Lord will continue to smile on our efforts to crush this wicked Rebelion. After the Presidential Election of next Nov. Mr. Putney will be willing to take 6¼ cts. for his Presidential Candidate while himself will try to hide from the Glorious manifestations of an indignant People against Peace Shriekers Copper Head, Sympathising Northern Rebels. I have no doubt in my own mind but honest Old Abe is to be our next President. he is the Soldiers Choice. I will stop to write no more this time my health is good and Im in good Spirets Love to all, from your Affectionate Brother

T C Cheney.

Sources: Lynda Lasswell Crist, editor, Jefferson Davis, The Papers of Jefferson Davis: Volume 2, September 1864-May 1865, Louisiana State University Press, 2004, pp. 50-52 (link); Thomas Carleton Cheney, 1831-1900 Papers, University of New Hampshire (link); Thomas C. Cheney letter to Melissa, September 18, 1864 (link)